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The Difference Between Radiculopathy, Radiculitis, and Radicular

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Shukla
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dr shukla neurologist tx
Medically reviewed by Dr. Shukla

Radiculitis (radiculopathy) is a general term used by doctors to refer to symptoms associated with a pinched or inflamed spinal root. Against the background of lumbar osteochondrosis, a disease such as the radicular of the lumbosacral spine often develops. This clinical syndrome occurs due to compression and damage to the nerve roots. 

This is a widespread disease, more than 10% of the population of our planet are over 40-50 years old, and in the last decade, radiculitis has become younger, occurs in the young age group from 25 to 35 years old, and people involved in professional sports, as well as those who are long-term while sitting at a computer or driving a car.

A radicular syndrome is a complex pathology, the etymology of which can be different. A destructive change in the vertebral discs occurs in stages. Therefore, it is most often diagnosed when pain occurs. This is a complex of clinical manifestations caused by compression of the spinal nerve roots. Sometimes the radicular syndrome is called radiculitis, but there is often no inflammatory process with this disease, so radiculopathy is correct.

Radiculopathy refers to any painful process that occurs in the spinal cord. Radiculitis is inflammation of the spinal cord root. Radicular pain is a symptom of radiculopathy.

Radicular Pain Symptoms and Treatment

Most often, radicular pain syndrome develops due to osteochondrosis. Osteochondrosis disrupts the metabolism and blood circulation in the spine. When the vertebrae is under pressure, the intervertebral discs bulge and can crack. Through the cracks, the semi-liquid nucleus of the disc enters the spinal canal. It pinches the nerve roots and causes radiculopathy.

Osteophytes also compress the roots of the spinal nerves. These bony growths on the vertebrae form when the intervertebral discs get lower to compensate for the height. It also becomes the cause of radicular pain.

Radicular pain symptoms and treatment

The main symptoms of this syndrome:

  • The manifestations of the disease differ depending on where the nerve roots are pinched. If this happens in the lumbosacral region, the pain is localized in the lower back, buttocks, and spreads along the thigh. It radiates to the lower leg and foot. A person experiences discomfort while walking and running. Severe pain occurs with a sudden change in position. In the later stages, movement is generally difficult.
  • If radiculopathy strikes the cervical spine, radicular pain is localized here. The back of the head, shoulder, and scapula can hurt constantly. The sensation is exacerbated if you turn your head suddenly, cough, or wave your hand. One of the limbs may go numb; there is a “cotton” hand feel. Sudden pain occurs at night.
  • If inflammation or pinching of the roots occurs in the thoracic region, the pain will gird the ribs and intensify from deep breaths, bends, and any movements.


  • To prescribe the correct course of treatment, the doctor determines the stage of the disease considering the sex and age of the patient, his characteristics, and existing diseases.

Causes of Radiculitis

The cause of the development of radiculitis is the pathological processes that occur in the spine, namely:

  • Degenerative-dystrophic processes osteochondrosis and its complications – protrusion and hernia of intervertebral discs.
  • Malformations of the musculoskeletal system, accompanied by changes in muscle tone.
  • Posture disorders, the curvature of the spine, scoliosis.
  • Incorrect distribution of physical stress on the spinal nerve root column during a person’s professional activity (when driving a car, for office workers and loaders – with a long stay in one position, loaders).
  • A sedentary lifestyle, in which blood supply to the lumbar region muscles gradually increases.
  • Improper drinking regime throughout the day and for several months.
  • Deficiency of vitamins and minerals leads to osteoporosis and trophic lesions of the nerve fiber.
  • Tuberculosis, osteomyelitis, chronic syphilis, and other spinal cord infections.
  • Regular injuries to the vertebrae and the soft tissues surrounding them (blows, sharp twists, compression when jumping, sprains of the ligamentous apparatus).
  • Overweight with obesity of 1-2 degrees and the presence of bad habits such as smoking, abuse of tea, coffee, and alcoholic beverages.

Diagnosis, Treatment, and Types of Radiculitis


For the diagnosis of radicular pain, tension symptoms are important. For example, Lasegue’s symptom is characteristic when you raise a straight leg while lying on your back, and pain in the lower back increases.

  • An MRI or CT scan of the lumbosacral spine is important for making the correct diagnosis because only these studies will allow the attending physician to identify the presence of diseases such as intervertebral hernias or other diseases of the spine (spondylitis, compression fractures, neoplasms).


  • The modern approach to treating acute and chronic pain, which includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants. Their mechanism of action: reducing inflammation, pain intensity, and relieving muscle spasms. 
  • Also, physiotherapeutic treatment is carried out during the period of remission of the disease (electrophoresis, amplipulse, darsonvalization).

Types of Radiculitis

Types of Radiculitis

Cervical radiculopathy. Cervical radiculitis, by its name, indicates the localization of pain in the neck, namely in the cervical spine. This disease is expressed by pain, sensory disturbances, or muscle weakness; it can be right. The causes of cervical radiculitis of the spinal nerve root can be different: disc herniation, disc protrusion, disc degeneration, osteoarthritis, foraminal stenosis, etc. Symptoms can appear in the neck and radiate to other parts of the body.

Thoracic radiculopathy. Thoracic radiculitis means the localization of pain in the middle of the back. Symptoms are typical for this type of disease. The patient may feel pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness. Compared to cervical radiculitis is rare. This is due to the relative rigidity of this part of the spine, which serves as an attachment point for the ribs and supports for the upper and lower trunk. The flexibility of this section prevents the vertebrae and discs from age-related changes. If you have symptoms, you need to see a doctor who will carry out tests and prescribe the correct treatment. Potential reasons for developing this type of pain include the following factors:

  • degenerative disc changes, disc protrusion;
  • herniated disc;
  • osteoarthritis osteophyte;
  • spinal injury (especially when twisting);
  • spinal stenosis;
  • foraminal stenosis.

Lumbar radiculopathy. The lumbar has its localization in the lower back, where the center of gravity of the human body is located. The signs of this type of radiculitis are similar to other departments. The term lumbar radiculopathy refers to irritation of the large sciatic nerve. The most striking symptom of this type of disease is intense pain in the buttocks, thighs, and feet. The main causes of lumbar radiculopathy are:

  • arthritis;
  • degenerative changes in the vertebrae;
  • foraminal stenosis;
  • compression fracture;
  • herniated disc;
  • disc protrusion;
  • spondylolisthesis.

The symptoms of sciatica and spinal stenosis are very similar. In addition, these diseases are related, so to understand the full picture. You also need to know what spinal stenosis is.

What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is pathological and its abnormal narrowing. It occurs in the central, lateral zone, or intervertebral foramen area. The disease is based on the compression of nerve fibers by soft and bone tissues penetrating the canal cavity.

Due to compression of the spinal cord or nerves, a neurological deficit develops, manifested by a typical clinical picture and radicular pain. Most patients suffer from radicular pain and sensory disorders. The localization of discomfort depends on the level of damage to the spinal cord and the nervous system. In 80-90% of cases, the disease develops in the lumbar spine.

Spinal stenosis is a pathology characterized by a gradual development; this contributes to the timely diagnosis of the disease, followed by the selection of adequate treatment. In 85-90% of cases, unpleasant symptoms can be eliminated with conservative therapy. Only with the ineffectiveness of medications is a planned neurosurgical operation prescribed.

Types of stenosis. In the first case, the reason for the pathology is anomalies in the development of the spine, fusion of intervertebral discs, additional bone structures on their surface, and hypertrophy of the ligamentous apparatus that fixes the vertebrae. All these changes lead to a narrowing of the lumen with the development of a characteristic clinical picture.

In most cases (up to 80%), the disease is acquired (secondary) in nature. Pathology develops against the background of degenerative processes in the spine due to various reasons.

Depending on the etiology, secondary stenosis of the canal is:

  • post-traumatic;
  • postoperative;
  • a consequence of an infectious process;
  • the result of other degenerative diseases of the spine (spondylosis, facet joints, scoliosis, lordosis).

Depending on the nature of the compression of nerve fibers and pain, neurosurgeons distinguish central, lateral, and foraminal (in the intervertebral foramen area).

Symptoms and Causes of Spinal Stenosis 

It is characterized by damage to the fibers that pass inside and spread to the peripheral parts of the body. A violation of their function accompanies compression of the nerve of microvessels, and lymphatic pathways that supply these structures with nutrients. As a result, ischemia, edema, and demyelination develop, impairing the transmission of impulses along the affected fibers. Against the background of these changes, the patient presents the following complaints:

  • Pain in the affected spinal area. The connection between the radicular pain syndrome and the patient’s physical activity is characteristic. Discomfort increases with movements accompanied by a narrowing of the intervertebral foramen (extension, walking downstairs, prolonged stay in an upright position).
  • Violation of sensitivity. The patient may complain about the inability to identify objects by touch and deterioration in the perception of heat and cold on the skin.
  • Muscle weakness, deterioration of motor skills, coordination of movements.
  • Paresthesia, goosebumps.

Symptoms and causes of spinal stenosis

The clinical picture directly depends on the localization of the maximum compression. In 75-90% of cases, the disease develops in the lumbar region, causing the predominant lesion of the lumbar, gluteal region, and lower extremities.

The severity of the symptom depends on the degree of compression of the spinal nerve roots and fibers. Patients note a decrease in discomfort while squatting and its increase with active walking or extension of the spine. Discomfort can extend to the back of the lower extremities, accompanied by a loss of patient stability. The pain is permanent in this case.

Stenosis Causes 

The pathogenetic basis for the development of the disease is the mechanical compression of nerve fibers that pass inside the spinal canal or in the places where the spinal nerves originate.

The most common reason of pathology:

  • congenital malformations of the spine;
  • traumatic injuries of the spinal canal, including surgery;
  • infections with damage to the central and peripheral nervous system;
  • an overgrowth of osteophytes (bone processes) against the background of osteoarthritis;
  • scoliosis, lordosis;
  • ankylosing spondylitis;
  • the formation of facet joints;
  • spinal cord ligament hypertrophy;
  • intervertebral disc pathology;
  • spondylolysis and/or spondylolisthesis.

Stenosis of the intervertebral canal is a disease that develops gradually. In 90% of cases, pathology is a consequence of another disease. However, some factors increase the risk of developing this problem:

  • obesity;
  • spinal injury;
  • heavy physical activity (weightlifters, loaders);
  • metabolic disorders (diabetes mellitus);
  • menopause in women.

According to statistics, the disease develops in 1-2% of the world’s population. It is mostly men over the age of 50 who are affected.

Prevention and Rehabilitation of Radiculopathy and Radicular Pain


There is no specific prophylaxis. The patient is left to work with risk factors, which include:

  • body weight control;
  • timely treatment of diseases of the spine;
  • dosed physical activity;
  • avoidance of traumatic injury;
  • regular check-ups with a doctor.

When the first signs of the disease are detected, it is necessary to seek specialized help as early as possible.


It takes place on an inpatient and outpatient basis.

  •  For the first few days, the patient remains under the supervision of a neurosurgeon, who daily performs dressings and assesses the quality of postoperative wound healing. 
  • After discharge, the patient gradually returns to normal life.
  • The stitches are removed on the 7-10th day. 
  • Full recovery occurs within 1-6 months, depending on the duration of the disease and the volume of surgical intervention. 
  • At this time, limiting physical activity and stress factors is recommended. 
  • You need to eat well, have a rest, and follow the recommendations of the neurosurgeon.

Hopefully, all this information has been useful for you. Take care of yourself.


  • What is spinal radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy is also called radiculitis or radicular syndrome. This is a condition in which the nerve roots of the spinal cord are pinched or inflamed. The disease is characterized by rapid development and prevalence.

  • What is Radicular Syndrome?

This is a complex of clinical manifestations caused by compression of the spinal nerve roots. Sometimes the radicular syndrome is called radiculitis, but there is often no inflammatory process with this disease, so radiculopathy is correct.

  • What are the radicular syndrome signs?

The main symptom that characterizes radicular syndrome is pain along the affected nerve. The pain is mild at first, but the more the root is squeezed, the stronger the pain will be. The structure that pinches the root will shift with stress or movement, and the pain will be more severe.

  • Which doctor treats spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a disease that a neurosurgeon treats. But you can get a complete examination.

  • Can spinal stenosis be cured?

It is impossible to eliminate the disease with the help of pills completely. However, adequate drug therapy can provide long-term remission and normalize the patient’s well-being for many years.

  • How to prevent the development of spinal stenosis?

Prevention is aimed at combating risk factors for obesity, excessive physical activity, and spinal injury. Timely treatment of other pathologies of the musculoskeletal system remains an important aspect.

  • Is Spinal stenosis a serious disease?

If the symptoms are ignored, and if treatment is not provided, spinal stenosis can have serious consequences. If the spinal nerve root is compressed long enough, irreversible effects and paralysis can occur.

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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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